Have We Reached Peak Stupidity Or Is The World Just Pants?

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This was the challenging early Monday morning query  that greeted me today on my return from the dentist. He Who Lives In My House had just spotted a  headline in the Independent newspaper. This is the headline:

High-tech boxer shorts protect men’s sperm from smartphone and wifi radiation damage

New pants are a cage for your crown jewels, protecting them from the ravages of the modern world  (rest of  Ben Chapman’s article HERE)

 

It seems French entrepreneur, Arthur Menard, had become so concerned about the health of his and other men’s testicles that he set up SPARTAN, so providing a new brand of chaps’ protective undergarment.

After much research, he and his team have come up with a knicker fabric that combines cotton and silver. This, they say, “blocks more that 99% of mobile phone and wifi radiation”. The silver also “has anti-bacterial properties meaning the pants should stay odour-free.”

This is all highly commendable of course. The reproductive health of present and future generations is clearly at stake here. We cannot have a scenario wherein the human race is wiped out due to obsessive compulsive Smartphone, laptop and tablet usage. That would be too daft, wouldn’t it? Except somehow, you can see it coming can’t you – our endlessly driven pursuit of pleasure gizmos and our too small grasp of the unintended, multiplying consequences; the outcomes – like ‘fake news’, ‘fake presidents’, social  media tyranny and manipulation of reality that, to my mind, truly are pants. No cotton and silver mesh to shield us from that kind of fall-out.

Combine With Me ~ Wooing Wenlock Style

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I mentioned that the wheat was being swept off the field on Tuesday afternoon. And as I’m actually rather impressed by seeing combine harvesters in action, and the dust they make, I took a few photos from the bedroom window. But when I looked at them later on screen, I was amused to see a shapely pair of legs nudged up against the combine driver’s jeans.  Aaaah. Greater love hath no young woman than to spend the day out harvesting with her lad.

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And for those who also have a yen for combine harvesters…

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Monday Magic ~ Red Admiral On Doronicum And A Slice Of This Writer’s Life

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So far my Monday has been unusually zippy. This morning I did the final edit on a short story and emailed it off to a literary magazine that specialises in ‘emerging writers’. Because the thing is, and this can be a commonly depressing condition for many long-published, but still unknown writers, after many years of publication, and awards won on three continents – (am especially proud of the Golden Duck for my contribution to children’s science fiction writing,  Write Your Own Science Fiction Stories), I am still emerging. It is a damn slow process too – being half in and half out of my chrysalis. Nor am I entirely sure if those parts which are out  have fully metamorphosed.

Anyway, I was quite pleased with the story and, having despatched it into cyberspace, I then felt free to go gardening for three hours. The allotment is verdant because at last we’ve had rain that has soaked into the soil. The runner and French beans have switched into prolific mode; I have a polytunnel full of groovy little yellow squashes, and the tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

Out on the plots there were butterflies everywhere, and for a while I faffed about with my Canon Ixus running after them in daft-bat mode. I also got the mower out and cut all the paths around my one and half plots – not my favourite task. Then I faffed some more, snapping an artichoke which proved a particularly absorbing subject.

Around 2 pm I thought I ought to head home and provide lunch for He Who Is Teaching Himself To Make Mortise And Tenon Joints So He Can Create A Shed Door, (where would we be without those life enhancing You Tube videos that show you such things as how to skin a dover sole, make almond milk and clean the stairs properly?) And it was then I spotted this Red Admiral on the Doronicum beside said evolving, currently doorless shed.

I am taking the butterfly as inspiration. This is how it will be when I’m full emerged. What I splash I’ll make. How high I’ll fly. Though I do hope for a slightly longer life span. In the meantime here’s a rather fascinating view of life inside a gone-to-seed globe artichoke.

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Happy Monday

P.S. Did you spot the web?

Monochrome Strawberries ~ A Challenge Too Far?

 

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I don’t know about you, but the transformation of luscious red strawberries into non-colour is more than a little disturbing. For one thing it’s challenging my atavistic hunter-gatherer impulse to be drawn to a much-loved, ripe and ready fruit. My hand is reaching out to pick even as I am anticipating the sweet juiciness on my tongue and the inevitable dribble down the chin.

But what am I to make of the monochrome fruit? At the moment I’m thinking not only do they NOT entice, but I would also give them quite a wide berth. I’m also thinking I could be onto a whole new weight-loss-fad – ‘The  Monochrome Diet’ anyone?

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

 

P.S. Many thanks to Paula at Lost in Translation for her intriguing ‘After and Before’ photo editing exercise. It throws up all sorts of perceptual conundrums.

Oh No! The Poppies’ Frocks Are Blowing Off

Last night as I was snapping the foxgloves outside the garden, a keen wind blew up. Inside the garden the oriental poppies were in complete disarray – a veritable strip-tease was going on. Of course it often happens – just when the poppies are looking their best, we have gale or deluge, and the garden party ends up a complete wash-out: everyone with draggled skirts, hair-dos shot and mascara smudged.

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But the good news is – when I got up this morning…

 

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…there were new girls on the block, including one in lipstick pink. How could I have forgotten  that she would be coming along? Although how she got herself in with the salmon pink crowd I do not know.

While I’m here, I’ll pass on an oriental poppy gardening tip for those of you that grow them, and may not know: if, when the poppies have finally finished flowering, you cut the plants right down to the ground, you will be treated to a late summer flush.

Cee’s Flower Of The Day  Please visit Cee to see her lovely flower shots, and leave links to your own.

More Dallying In The Dingle ~ Encounters with Rare Bird, Twitchers, A Goddess And A War Horse ~ And That Was Only for Starters…

Nor was it the kind of day when one might expect any of these things to cross one’s path. Truth was I was in a bit of a stew on Saturday morning. He who dismantles wooden builder’s pallets and shares my house was off to Shrewsbury on a half-day’s book-binding course. I thought this very excellent. It always makes a good change putting things together rather than taking other things apart (otherwise known as pallet scrattling, although I should add that some of the scrattled pallets have been recycled into various sizes of book press and spine stitching frames so, unlikely as it sounds, there is congruence between the two activities).

The reason I was in a bit of a stew was because I had decided that, since he was headed for the big bad town, albeit to the suburbs, he could drop me off somewhere near the centre for a few hours’ shopping. The source of my concern was that scrattling and binding skills do not necessarily add up to a navigational facility. I was thus at pains to devise routes that could be followed in my absence. And no, we do not have Sat Nav. And yes, I think it’s time we did.

Except, if it had not been for my overanxious machinations, which made for a simple non-deviating route for him, and a long walk for me, I would not have opted to be dropped off by the Porthill Bridge, one of the town’s several Victorian suspension bridges (Shrewsbury is on a hill within a loop of the River Severn), and I would not have had all these unexpected encounters in Shrewsbury Quarry, otherwise known as the town park.

Here’s the footbridge. It’s rather fine, apart from the earth-tremor sensation when you reach the middle:

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And here’s the  first glimpse of The Quarry once you’ve recovered from vertigo:

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And another view looking towards the river, complete with Victorian bandstand:

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As you can see the park is mostly swathes of grass crisscrossed by pleasing avenues. The riverside walk is the nicest, and enables you to access one end of the town from the other without meeting a car, though watch out for the bicycles. For two days in August (this year the 11th and 12th), Shrewsbury Flower Show covers the whole park. In fact it is quite a legend –  the world’s longest running flower show. It has its origins in the medieval guildsmen’s annual celebrations – more of which in a moment.

For now please conjure tents, pavilions and marquees, a floral riot of three million blooms, some astonishing displays of vegetables, the bandstand bursting with serial military bands, and each day topped off with a stupendous firework display.

Uphill from the bandstand is one of several gateways into the Dingle as mentioned in the last post. This submerged garden with its small ornamental lake was made from an abandoned stone quarry back in Victorian times, but today’s planting very much celebrates the life and times of Percy Thrower, Britain’s first TV gardener who was Superintendent of Shrewsbury Parks 1946-1974.

I only went in there by chance. I’d walked across the park to take a photograph of the bandstand and, by the time I’d done that, I’d rather forgotten about going shopping. Then I began to notice a gathering of chaps all clad  in dark coloured anoraks. They were down by the Dingle pool and armed with photographic lenses as big as rocket launchers. There was air of enthusiast-expectation – as in train-spotters waiting for the Flying Scotsman to steam by. Twitchers, I thought: they who pursue rare breeds of birds to add to their list of rare birds already spotted. I looked from lenses to ornamental pool and back again. They clearly hadn’t lugged in all that kit to snap the Dingle ducks. They could leave that to me:

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I stared at the island in the pool, the spot on which every lens was trained. All I could see was part of a white-grey undercarriage of what appeared to be a largish bird. It was standing very still, most of it hidden in a rhododendron. My first thought, bizarrely, was ‘penguin’ and for a daft few moments I wondered how a penguin could possibly have arrived in Shropshire. Climate change? Surely not.

Then I began to feel a touch offended on behalf of the putative penguin, and with all the peering that was going on. I decided I would not ask the twitchers what they were waiting to see, but do a circuit around the pool and see if whatever it was would reveal itself on my return. That seemed more fair, less paparazzi-like.  And if it didn’t appear so be it. Poof. Talk about taking moral high ground.

Next it was the tulips that caught my eye, as in the previous post, but you can see them again:

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And then I said hello to Percy Thrower, and wished I had a bucket of soapy water  to give his face a good wash: dirty birds!

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And next I wandered round to the Shoemakers’ Arbour, a place that used to intrigue me as a child. No adult back then seemed able to explain exactly what it was. The plaque on the wall of the structure says that, what looks like a piece of romantically contrived garden architecture,  was in fact the gateway to an arbour built by the Shrewsbury Guild of Shoemakers in 1679. It also tells me that it was originally sited across the river in Kingsland, but moved to the Dingle in 1877. There is no further explanation, though presumably the reason it was rescued was precisely because it made a nice piece of romantically contrived garden architecture.

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On the pediment (see also the header photo) are the remnant images of Crispin and Crispian, the patron saints of shoemakers:

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But what I wanted to know was – what was all this stuff about guilds and arbours, and what did shoemakers do inside them anyway – get well and truly cobbled?

Later, after a little delving, I discovered that celebration and jollification were indeed the purpose, and all part of the annual town celebrations, the very same that gave rise to the present day Shrewsbury Flower Show.

So the story is this.

Across the River Severn from the Quarry is a part of the town called Kingsland (now an enclave of grand Edwardian houses and Shrewsbury School). In the late middle ages it was common land administered by the town corporation. Here the town’s guilds would erect arbours for an annual gathering. In the early days these arbours were wooden framed pavilions, but by the 17th century the guilds were allowed to build permanent single storey structures – much in the style of medieval feasting halls. Each also had a cottage with a court and hedged garden.

On show day – always the second Monday after Trinity Sunday – and after the guilds had processed through the town, all would repair to their various arbours for much merrymaking. Here too each guild would entertain the mayor and his officers, and one imagines that the worthies may well have been legless by the time they had visited all eleven guild arbours.

The Shoemakers’ Arbour thus shared the ground with, among others, the guilds of bakers, tailors, carpenters, glovers, weavers and joiners. You can read more about medieval guilds here, but they were basically trade associations, or cartels formed by skilled artisans with the intention of guaranteeing craft standards and setting wages somewhat like a trade union.

Now that’s all sorted, back to my wander round the Dingle, and just in case you are now imagining a large rambling place, it truly only take five minutes to walk round if you don’t stop to look at things. Which makes it all the more odd that after I’d moved on from the saintly shoemakers I found myself in a part of the garden I did not remember. (How could that be? I spent so much of my youth in this place.) Anyway, I had taken a little off-shoot from the main path, and this brought me to a small pool. And here she was: Sabrina – the River Severn’s very own goddess:

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Sabrina is her Roman name, but the two main stories associated with her are of pre-Roman origin and told by 12th century historian Geoffrey of Monmouth. The Celtic tale tells of three sisters, water nymphs who meet on Plynlimon (Pumlumon in Welsh), the highest point of the Cambrian Mountains in mid-Wales. They each decide to pursue their own route to the sea. One sister wants to reach it as quickly as possible and sets off due west, so forming the Ystwyth River. The second sister prefers the rolling hill country, and wends her leisurely way, so becoming the Wye. And the third, Hafren, takes the longest route of all, 180 miles, and becomes the Severn. She wants to have a good look at all the fine towns and cities and stay close to the haunts of humankind.

Hafren is the Welsh name for the River Severn. A single ‘F’ is pronounced as ‘V’ in Welsh. She is the Welsh goddess of healing.  And the other story about her is rather grim. It is very ancient, and tells of an early English king, Locrinus, who marches to the North England to fight off the invading Huns. Amongst his prisoners is a German girl, Estrildis, with whom he falls in love. But he is pledged to Gwendolen, and a king must keep his promises. Being king though, he also devises a way to keep Estrildis as his mistress, and for seven years hides her away from his queen in a subterranean dwelling. They have a child of course – Habren or Hafren.

And then Locrinus makes a big mistake, and runs off with his beloved. The enraged Gwendolen raises an army and marches against him. He is slaughtered and Estrildis and Hafren are ordered to be drowned in the Severn.  In tribute, however, to the guiltless child, the queen orders that the river be named after her. So there we have her: Hafren, Severn, Sabrina.

The notions of her healing powers may go back to earliest Celtic times, since we know that water played an important part in the Celts’ spiritual thinking. The Romans too honoured watery places and often adopted the deities of the occupied peoples. You will find a more detailed and fascinating discussion of the  myths and legends associated with the River Severn HERE

The statue was carved by Peter Hollins of Birmingham in 1846 and donated to the people of Shrewsbury by the Earl of Bradford in 1879.

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By now I’m back with the twitchers. Can you spot a couple of them? But there is still nothing happening on the penguin front and I am now diverted by a life-sized iron horse, and can’t think how I missed her on the way into the Dingle. There she is amongst the municipal rows of polyanthus, the town’s commemorative tribute to Flanders Field of the Great War, and of course to all the brave horses who served man and country.

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But suddenly things are stirring behind me. The twitchers are all a flutter. Hey-up! I hear. The penguin must be on the move.

I’m disappointed though. I’m only armed with a little Lumix, so these next shots are pretty poor, though good enough to show that the penguin theory was indeed very silly.

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What we have here is Nycticorax nycticorax – a Night Heron, and indeed a most unusual visitor on UK shores. It is more usually found in warm, tropical regions and I think the first and  last one I saw was at Hunter’s Lodge in Kenya. I didn’t wait to see if the penguin it was prepared to reveal itself fully. I decided the clue was in the name. The entry for Night Heron in my Field Guide to Birds of East Africa says: ‘Mainly nocturnal, keeping to dense waterside cover by day.’

But at least the mystery is solved. I cut back across the Dingle, skirting around Percy’s ‘parks & gardens’ flower beds, the tower of St. Chad’s on my horizon:

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And out again in the Quarry, I next find myself joining in with an ‘Anti-Austerity’ – Labour Party Rally outside the Horticultural Society’s park lodge . Here are people who want to stop cuts to state schools that are lowering teaching standards and to protect all that is good about the National Health Service. I look around the assembled crowd. They look like decent people. Their words are sincere, heartfelt. I stick around and do some clapping. Shopping? What shopping?

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copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

 

 

 

The Changing Seasons: April And the Alien Invasion?

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All right I’m a gardener, and maybe a tad prone to persecution mania on the pest front, but this month it’s been wall to wall dandelions, and no sign of the invasion letting up. Not only are they EVERYWHERE, and especially out in force at the allotment, but they are also showing signs of mutating into mega-weeds, some as big as palm trees. OK. Perhaps not quite that big. But I can see what they’re plotting: world domination in Much Wenlock.

All means of defence seem puny before the onslaught. I’ve tried mowing, hoeing, beheading, excising. Even resorted to engaging in dialogue of the non-expletive variety. But it’s no go. So I thought I’d shoot the varmints instead – photo-wise naturally. And of course, they really are very beautiful – whether in flower or gone to seed – and also so very perfectly designed for maximum coverage of planet Earth.

The one thing I’ve forgotten to do this year is eat some of them – young leaves in salad and for a system-cleansing tea, roots dry-roasted  to make quite a passable coffee that also has health benefits, flowers deep fried as fritters (though I’ve not tried this). And now that I’m seeing them in a more kindly light, and established a little perspective, I’m ready to post a less fraught compilation of April shots taken on and around the allotment.

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The Changing Seasons: April 2017 Please visit Max at Cardinal Guzman to see Oslo in April and other bloggers’ offerings.

“Life, Jim, but not as we know it”?

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I don’t know about you, but I find this close-up shot of a daffodil a bit disturbing. It was sitting in a jug with other daffodils on our kitchen table, full lit by a pendant light. We’d just had dinner and I thought I’d capture some floral detail.

But somehow daffodils by night don’t quite make sense. And there’s a worrying ‘otherness’ about the too-close-quarters; rather like the first time you looked up someone’s skirt when you were a child.

Hm. It makes me think though – what a wonderful mystery is this thing we call life. And in this case, so very yellow!

A Matter of Focus ~ Fond Thoughts Of High Summer On Windmill Hill With Greater Knapweed And Assorted Grasses

 

It’s blowing a frigid gale in Wenlock today; Met Office warnings of 60-80 mph winds as Storm Doris comes tearing through. What a woman! Talk about flighty.

First thing this morning I had to dash outdoors in my nightie to rescue the sweet pea seedlings: they were being blown out of their pots. Not only that, the freshly open daffodils were all askew, and the garden canes whipped off the shed wall into giant Pick-Up-Sticks.  Phew and phew. Just TOO much wind.

So it’s good to think about warmer weather, of lying in the grass on Windmill Hill, and peering at things botanical with the sun on my head. So thank you, Paula, for this week’s Thursday’s Special.

Focus is the watch word, however we care to interpret it,  and it has had me happily trawling through summer days in my own version of A la recherche de temps perdu. Which also reminds me that Marcel Proust used to do his writing in bed. Today, with all the draughts, and in places where we never knew we had them before, this is a very tempting prospect. So I’m wondering if He Who Recycles Pallets Builds Walls And Binds Books would mind delivering sustenance at regular intervals to the office bed where I might huddle under the duvet with my laptop. Seems unlikely somehow.

Here’s another shot of the knapweed, this one well and truly open for business along with assorted small bugs:

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